With the hot-and-cold nature of the season the Washington Nationals have been having so far, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that after a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins over the weekend, they were swept themselves in three games with the Atlanta Braves.
Things don’t get much easier for the Nationals this weekend as they travel to the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees in a three-game set.
After scuffling early in the season, the Yankees finally appear to have found some consistency and have rattled off 11 wins in their last 16 games, vaulting them back above .500 and back into the race for the American League East.
Here’s the lowdown from Yankee Stadium ahead of the weekend series...
- Game One: Friday, May 7th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2 and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Two: Saturday, May 8th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2 and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Three: Sunday, May 9th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2 and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game One: Patrick Corbin (1-3, 8.10 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (1-2, 5.24 ERA)
- Game Two: Max Scherzer (2-2, 2.54 ERA) vs Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.03 ERA)
- Game Three: Joe Ross (2-2, 4.39 ERA) vs Domingo Germán (2-2, 4.32 ERA)
Austin Voth: One of the more pleasant surprises for the Nationals this season has been the emergence of Voth as a reliable option out of the bullpen for manager Davey Martinez.
Following a pair of scoreless appearances against the Braves, the right-hander now sports a stellar 1.42 ERA and 2.31 FIP in his nine appearances this season, striking out 14 and walking five in 12.2 innings.
One of the main reasons for the success is that Voth’s velocity has ticked up while in the bullpen with his fastball consistently sitting in the 94-95mph range and even touching 97mph at times, while his slider now sits in the upper 80s out of the bullpen too.
He’s become a dynamic relief weapon for the Nationals of late and may earn a more important role out of the bullpen if the success continues.
Giancarlo Stanton: Perhaps his name doesn’t get brought up as much in the “Nats killer” conversation as much because he plays outside the NL East now, but Stanton has a 1.019 OPS against Washington in his career and comes into this series red hot at the dish.
Stanton is slashing .391/.440/.797 with eight home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 17 games and looks very much like the player he was in 2017 when he won the NL MVP award with the Miami Marlins.
In this kind of form, the Nationals are going to have to be very wary of their old enemy.
Juan Soto: A little unexpectedly, Soto returned to the Nationals ahead of their series with the Braves this week, but it came with a catch. With his shoulder still ailing, Soto was limited to pinch-hit duties during the series, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Soto definitely looked like a player who hadn’t seen a meaningful pitch in a couple of weeks at the plate. He was seemingly swinging and missing at pitches right down the heart of the plate that he usually feasts on, though, unsurprisingly, he did get better with each at-bat.
A series in an AL park this weekend will provide the opportunity for Soto to be the team’s DH and get regular at-bats again before he will hopefully play the field again after the series.
If it goes as well as his last trip to Yankee Stadium, when he went 2-for-3 with two mammoth home runs in his rookie year, this could be a good series for him to get back in the groove.
Clint Frazier: On the other end of the spectrum in the Yankees’ outfield to Stanton is Frazier who, despite homering on Thursday, has struggled plenty since the first series of the season.
In his last 23 games, Frazier has a slash line of just .109/.260/.266 with three home runs and five RBIs, though he is still drawing his walks, accepting 13 free passes, and striking out 21 times.
If Frazier continues to struggles, then it’s possible that the Yankees bench him for Miguel Andújar, who played in left field in Triple-A this week. This series against the Nationals will be a crucial one for him to attempt to bounce back in or he could lose his starting job.
From the opposing dugout
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One more thing to watch
If it feels like the Nationals have been squandering chance after chance to score runs lately, even more than usual, then you’re not just imagining it.
Over the past week, since last Friday, Washington has gone an abysmal 7-for-50 at the plate with runners in scoring position, including a frustrating 1-for-12 on Thursday. That 7-for-50 is good for only a .140 batting average, which is dead last in the major leagues in that time.
On the season, it’s not much better, as the Nationals have a .203 batting average with runners in scoring position, the second-lowest in the league, and a 65 wRC+, the lowest in the league.
The team’s persistent struggles to capitalize on rallies haven’t escaped the skipper.
“I think a lot of it has to do with — everybody is trying to be that guy,” Martinez told reporters during the series with the Braves. “The good thing is that we’re getting enough runners on base to drive in those runs. We got to start driving them in.
“I talked earlier about getting that runner in from third base with less than two outs. We’ve had a lot of opportunities to do that. We haven’t done it on a consistent basis. So we just got to get better at it. And it’s more or less not trying to do too much.
“Sometimes you’ve got to just move the baseball.”
With a DH in their lineup during this series, it will be interesting to see if the Nationals are able to begin to rectify their RISP troubles with a lengthened lineup and perhaps a better rub of the green in a slightly more hitter-friendly park in Yankee Stadium this weekend.